Lever’s CEO on the 3 Key Elements to Hiring for Hypergrowth

On this episode of Seeking Wisdom, DC and DG sit down with Sarah Nahm, CEO of Lever. Sarah grew up in Alabama, studied design at Stanford, worked at Google and wrote speeches for Marissa Mayer. Now at Lever, she helps organizations with the ‘art and science’ of hiring the right people.

Today, why Sarah hates job descriptions and instead focuses on impact descriptions, how to hire for hypergrowth, making diversity and inclusion a hiring priority and more.

You can get Seeking Wisdom on Apple PodcastsSoundCloudSpotifyStitcher or wherever you get your podcasts. Or listen to the full audio version below ?

Like this episode? Be sure to leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ review and share the pod with your friends! You can connect with DC, DG and Sarah on Twitter @dcancel @davegerhardt @srhnhm.

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In This Episode

0:09 Meet Sarah Nahm
0:20 Sarah is a CEO of Lever and meets her customers once a quarter
2:15 Lever creates software that businesses use for hiring
5:00 The importance of experience
6:18 Sarah explains the big ideas behind Lever
6:50 Average Tenure tracked by Bureau of Labor Statistics
8:20 In the new world, talent needs to be seen as a philosophy – more like sales and marketing
9:00 Hiring should be part of the entire company’s responsibility
9:30 Job Descriptions and adapting jobs to the employee
12:05 Lever Nurture helps build relationships
13:10 Companies going through hypergrowth are growing innovation and taking risks
14:27 Sarah tells her origin story
17:30 Sarah explains how she wrote for Marissa Mayer
21:22 Diversity at Lever
23:50 More on fairness, equality and diversity
24:59 Go beyond applicants – make sure hiring is collaborative. Invest in diversity and inclusion.
27:00 Impact Descriptions
29:37 Connect with Sarah on LinkedIn and twitter @srhnhm!

Full Transcript

David Cancel: Here we are.

Dave Gerhardt: We’re back.

DC: What’re we doing?

DG: We’re having a conversation with Sarah. What’s going on?

Sarah Nahm: Hi.

DC: Thanks for coming on.

Sarah: Absolutely, I’m excited to be here.

DC: We don’t want to do the generic like who are you, and what do you do, but before this you were just talking to David and said something interesting which is, you’re a CEO of this company, Lever. You do this once a quarter and Dave is like, ” What brings you to Boston?”, you said ” Once a quarter I get out and go meet customers.” That seems … we we’re just saying that’s crazy –

DG: Yeah.

DC: – how many CEOs are doing that? And why do you do it?

Sarah: Oh it’s my addiction. I mean it kind of gets to my background and what even drew me to tech in the first place because I have the great honor and privilege of being a designer founder.

DC: Yeah?

Sarah: So my education was in design, I studied design at Stanford. I don’t know if you’re at all familiar with the Stanford D school –

DC: Yeah, sure.

Sarah: – but they’re kind of big proponents of what they call, human centered design thinking. And essentially that’s saying, use a blend of psychology as well as being kind of a technologist and in go and identify the needs of single people, groups of people and use that almost like understanding of their needs as the starting point for innovation. So I am addicted to user research and getting just that first hand exposure to how teams work, how organizations work. I feel like you gotta go out there. It’s maybe my indulgence or –

DC: Mmm Hmm. Going back –

Sarah: Yeah.

DC: – to basics.

Sarah: Yeah. The design team doesn’t let me –

DC: Design anymore?

Sarah: – do design of letter anymore and so it’s just kind of my one contribution still, in the design camp. So that’s what brings me out here and it’s the best. I love it.

DC: It’s funny. It feels like that kind of thinking is back. Because early in … I have gray hair so I’ve been around a long time but early on there was a lot of human-centered work. You would read about it in CMU and a lot of places like that. That were focused on this. It was kind of … This is back in New York City where I grew up and worked originally. It was kind of a big thing. Then I felt like, I didn’t hear about it for a long time. I feel like I’m hearing about it a lot more now, right? Then points of design.

I don’t know why it’s fluctuated, like things ebb and flow.

Sarah: Yeah. Well, at least for me, I think that everybody now has been using a smartphone, a tablet, for years. The simplicity that you’ve come to expect from software, from applications, it’s kind of the new normal.

DC: Yes.

Sarah: So Lever, of course, builds software for businesses to run their hiring process. So I think now, what we’re seeing is, people are now demanding really elegant, simple user experiences in the workplace.

DC: Yup.

Sarah: So out with the clunky, click heavy, confusing systems that nobody really wanted to work with. The things that actually almost got in the way of you –

DC: Yeah. Working.

Sarah: – working. In with this new generation of software, and I feel like Drift is a big part of that too, that people are actually drawn to. Where the software kind of melts away and you’re just collaborating with your colleagues, you’re just making connections, making decisions and I actually think that’s kind of a big reason why design has a really important –

DC: I agree.

Sarah: – role to play in catalyzing change.

DG: That’s something that we talk about a lot here. Which is, what’s changed is everybody has that experience in their personal lives now so then when you go to work, you don’t expect it to be different, right? You’re using Instagram and WhatsApp and whatever and that’s just in messaging, as an example. But whatever products I’m using, whatever I’m using for email, what I’m using for video and then you go into work and you’re like, ” Okay it’s time to use my business software., ” and it feels like this crazy outdated piece of software.

DC: It used to be clunky on both sides and now everyone’s been taught about the importance of design in everything that we consume in our normal lives, that you see the stark difference when you come to work, right?

Sarah: Mmm Hmm.

DC: It’s really highlighted. Did you know Keith is the master of crushes.

DG: Yes. [crosstalk 00:03:54] This is another super big –

DC: This is like –

DG: – He’s done a good job though.

DC: Yeah.

DG: Everyone in Keith’s fandom like things has always panned out into a great podcast episode so I think we’re in good company.

DC: Yeah, yeah. Lever might be his second biggest crush.

Sarah: Oh shut up.

DC: His biggest crush is someone who we’ve had on the podcast before, Molly Graham.

Sarah: Molly Graham.

DC: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Sarah: She’s amazing. Give away your Legos. Give away your Legos. Listen to that episode everybody.

DG: See? Yeah, yeah.

DC: Biggest crush ever. He’s been talking about Molly Graham forever. He’s been talking about Lever since, when was it? When we were at HubSpot.

DG: While ago.

DC: 14? 2014? Yeah. Maybe 13, 14, something like that.

DG: What was it that he said?

DC: Well one he was obsessed about –

Sarah: He was onto us early. That was when we –

DC: Very early.

Sarah: – launched our very first –

DC: Yeah.

Sarah: – version of the product.

DC: Very early on –

Sarah: 2014.

DC: 14. And he was … Well one, we took a different approach to recruiting within our team. Which was the product engineering, design, that side of the company. And I wanted this approach that was kind of like … It’s all meta because of all the what we’re doing now. Which is all focused on the candidate and focused on … Because I’ve been just obsessed about experiences. Because I think experiences are the new thing that you buy. It’s not even like, for us I talk about all the time, it’s not a product or a service or a human thing or a bought thing. It’s just an experience that I want and those are the only things that would disproportionately value now, are these experiences.

So I wanted this amazing candidate experience, right? I think the candidate experience is the experience, is the brand, is the whole thing, every piece is the brand. And so I wanted that. We had kind of a clunky process in the rest of recruiting in Helpspot so we created our own process in there.

So we had Keith totally focus on that and we took an approach of recruiting people one person at a time. We didn’t use any of the tools or any of the approaches that the rest of the company used. At some point, Keith was dying for an ETS. I wouldn’t let him buy an ETS for a long time because I wanted to … Actually that was the whole thing, forever. Because didn’t want the tool to get in the way.

Sarah: Yeah.

DC: And I didn’t want the, you know because –

Sarah: Well that’s exactly what we’re talking about. This kind of old generation, new generation, and the conflicts that existed.

DC: Totally.

Sarah: It’s really crazy.

DG: I said, ” Keith what should we talk about?” And he’s like, ” Ask her this because …” The line was, he said, ” They built a product that was built for the candidate experience –

DC: I heard that.

DG: – not the recruiter experience.” That’s seems like the thread, right?

Sarah: Mmm Hmm.

DC: Is that the idea behind Lever?

Sarah: Yeah, I mean just to kind of set the stage, I think the biggest idea behind Lever is that, how we think about our careers has changed.

DC: Mmm Hmm.

Sarah: And therefore, of course, how you have to think about hiring has changed, how you have to think –

DC: Everything changes.

Sarah: – about design and recruiting has changed. How you of course, think about recruiting software has changed. So what has changed about employment and careers and our expectations from work. Millennials entering the workforce … We’re seeing these macroeconomics, macro-cultural things shift. The Bureau of Labor statistics is probably the best, certainly in the US, source of these data insights.

One of the things that they’re tracking is, of course, average tenure.

DC: Yeah. Yeah.

Sarah: That people are –

DC: Track their way down.

Sarah: – staying in jobs.

DC: Yeah, yeah.

Sarah: I think about my parents. My dad has changed jobs twice.

DC: Oh yeah? In his life?

Sarah: In his entire life.

DC: It’s amazing.

Sarah: And people are now expected to have something like seven jobs in their twenties.

DC: Mmm Hmm. Yeah. Just the mid twenties that’s a –

Sarah: Just in their twenties.

DC: Amazing.

Sarah: Yeah. And essentially the average time that people are staying in a company is shortening. Not because the companies are bad, the jobs are bad, but just the new belief that people have about what work is worth doing and what experiences they want in their careers. SO I think as a response to that, organizations need to completely embrace a different premise on talent. And increasingly, you are attracting people to you.

DC: Yup.

Sarah: You are hiring people as an on-going velocity. In response to that I think recruiting is shifting away from this administrative, paperwork, like I post a job and I fill it too. –

DG: Or like, we have a conversation here, internally, with the recruiting team. Who can sometimes feel married to this system which is like, ” Well, we’re having this conversation with Sara and …” ” Well, what role is she in? We don’t have this. It’s not listed in here.” And then, where do we fill out the thing and then where does this go after –

Sarah: Yes. Right? That’s the old administrative mindset. And that’s because recruiting came out of HR, but in the new world people are realizing that we have to thing about talent as a velocity. And managing that pipeline is a lot more like sales and marketing, and the other strategic parts of the business. Of course, therefore you’ve gotta go beyond applicants.

DC: Yeah.

Sarah: And break out of thinking about this posted job and fill-it world. And start thinking about building and managing relationships. Having something compelling, from a storytelling perspective to tell these people. You’re seeing the rise of recruitment marketing, of talent branding, and I think true success happens when you do one really critical last thing. Which is make it part of the entire companies responsibility.

DG: Mmm Hmm.

DC: Yeah. 100%.

Sarah: Every single person is collaborating, contributing. If you can build it into your culture –

DC: Yup.

Sarah: – that you are all ambassadors of opportunities here, then I think that’s where the fly wheel of succeeding with the new, call it Millennial, talent challenge. I think that’s when people really start seeing success.

DC: Totally agree. We sort of live that everyday here of just, it’s everyone’s job to recruit, right?

Sarah: Yeah.

DC: And referrals are a big part of it. We mentioned something earlier which was job descriptions.

DG: Yeah.

DC: Which is like, actually back when he discovered Lever at first, part of what I was trying to resist with a traditional ETS not Lever, was just the software getting in the way. One of those things that was driving me crazy was just the whole idea of job descriptions. Because it kind of forced this behavior that I saw in the other recruiting departments and other companies that I had been in which is like, we have a req, we have to fill this req, how do we know this is the best person? Because they have the most things that are identified on this req, you know? It was like this whole meta thing and I was like … At some point I got rid of all req’s in our team and just said, ” We’re just gonna recruit people one at a time. We’re gonna adapt jobs to the skills of the people that come in.” And I said, because the req’s were … We were hiring people almost on auto-pilot, because they filled some requirements and my thing was, I made up all the requirements.

DC: Like someone, in this case it was me, but someone somewhere sat and made up requirements, right? Which were like frozen at some point of time and thinking of the company. Which will probably all change by the time someone’s there. Will definitely change a year from now so it was just a weird way of like checkbox. Like they had the most checked box, so we should hire them.

Sarah: Yeah.

DG: Is it crazy? We actually just felt this recently, so DC found this amazing candidate for a role that we don’t have posted. He reaches out to her, sends her an email. She says, ” Aw, thank you so much for the know, big fan of what you all are doing over there, but I looked at the website and it doesn’t look like I’m a good fit for the job that you have posted. Best of luck.” And they were like, ” No, no, no, no. Don’t worry about that. That’s actually not the –

DC: That’s not what we’re talking –

DG: – reason we’re reaching out, is because we think there’s a fit.” Like, we don’t even know the job description, let’s talk. I think the thing that we found is, so many of the best people at Drift, there was very rarely ever a, ” We are hiring for X. We found X.” It’s like, whoa we happened to meet Gonzala, we happened to meet whoever. Then that’s how it happens.

Sarah: Well that’s the thing, right? So many of these HR systems, they didn’t actually have a whole lot of room for humans –

DC: Nope.

Sarah: – in them.

DC: Nope.

Sarah: And that’s actually one of my biggest, I guess you could call it pet peeves, about the software category that Lever’s in and something we’re really trying to change. We’re trying to do all these things. We’ve talked about making modern, simple, user-friendly, software but at the same time we’re also … It’s not about the process, it’s about the people. So for better or for worse, we’ve decided to build our whole notion of what is the fundamental unit in our system?

DC: Yeah. It’s the person. Right.

Sarah: It’s a person. Yeah. So we were a lot more like a CRM. Like a relationship management platform, than we are a process management platform.

DC: I like that.

Sarah: One of the things that we put a lot of effort into is building those relationships.

DG: Yup.

Sarah: And doing it kind of getting your people, your employees at the forefront. We have this product that we call Love or Nurture. It is a way for you to take people that, maybe you don’t have a job open or maybe they’re currently at a job and you’re just trying to keep –

DC: The relationship going.

Sarah: – the relationship going, yeah. You can reach out to them. It doesn’t have to be some automated, weird, impersonal thing.

DC: Yeah.

Sarah: You can actually have the real voices of different people at your company be the ones that are sharing their story –

DC: I love that.

Sarah: – yeah. That’s I think, what organizations want. To build relationships that way. Talent out there want to build relationships that way. If you actually make a marriage, those are gonna be employees that are passionate, invested in your culture, invested in your brand, in your mission. So yeah, I really do believe there’s a new way to hire out there. I think Lever’s doing it’s part to try to make change but I think organizations and-

DC: Yeah. They make the change.

Sarah: – the leaders inside of companies … Sometimes it’s scary to stick your neck out and do it. That’s why I think the companies that are going through hyper-growth are the ones that are driving the most innovations, that are taking the biggest risks. I think that they are proving that, that way of thinking that’s better for everybody, is more successful. Because they’re able to pull off this astounding year over year growth and have such strong cultures. While they’re doing it.

DC: Yeah and at the end of the day, what we think and what we see is just, it’s all the people. Right? And so you talked about sales and marketing and this, and moving, recruiting and people, up to that level. My view, it’s more important. Those things are just the end result of having the right team.

Sarah: Yeah.

DC: And whether you succeed or not, to me, is the team.

Sarah: Yeah and tying it back to that macroeconomic again, we saw a shift in the past from the industrial to the service industry. I would even say we’re going from a service industry to call it an experience industry.

DC: Yeah, yeah.

Sarah: Where knowledge workers and the creative class, it is just people. It’s not even the industrial machine anymore. It really is the ingenuity, creativity, passion of people.

DC: Yup.

Sarah: So yeah, I think the emphasis on finding the right fits and making those matches, in the world. That’s both getting harder but also more business critical.

DC: Yup. What led you to want to be a designer?

Sarah: Oh my gosh.

DC: What’s the origin story? Where did you grow up?

Sarah: Now we’re really going back.

DC: Yeah.

Sarah: Well I’ll give you 50 guesses to guess what state I grew up in.

DC: Okay. California.

Sarah: Not California. No.

DC: Okay.

DG: It’s gotta be like the middle of the country somewhere. Just somewhere that we’re not thinking.

DC: No.

DG: It sounds –

DC: It sounds like you’re a west coast.

Sarah: Alright well I won’t torture you. Alabama. Birmingham.

DC: No way.

DG: Wow. Okay.

DC: Was your dad in NASA?

Sarah: No, although good call. Huntsville, Alabama.

DC: Huntsville. Oh you were at Huntsville?

Sarah: No. I was in Birmingham.

DC: Birmingham, okay.

Sarah: Yeah. No, my dad is in medical research –

DC: Okay.

Sarah: – there’s a medical school there. Growing up in the south, as an Asian American is definitely an interesting experience. I wasn’t born there, so I even moved there. I think at the time, I was a pre-teen, I was just like, ” We’re going where?”

DC: Yeah.

Sarah: But honestly –

DC: Birmingham, Alabama.

Sarah: – it was such a great experience for me.

DC: I’ve never been. Yeah.

Sarah: I would recommend it. It’s getting very hip nowadays.

DC: Oh really?

Sarah: I sort of don’t even recognize it when I go home. There’s like artisanal coffee, climbing gyms, and all sorts of things.

DG: That’s amazing.

DC: Well everything’s getting hip now because of the internet.

Sarah: Everything’s getting hip.

DC: The Internet’s giving access.

Sarah: It’s Instagram, right?

DC: Yup. Totally, it’s Instagram. I grew up in New York City and the time I grew up, it’s like … Obviously this is before the commercial internet. Everyone would come from all parts of the country to be there. Because, to be in certain kinds of scenes. Which you had described, you know, artisanal coffee or whatever. Whatever hip scene you wanted. Whether it was art, or what have you, you had to be there or you had to be in some other city like that. Because everyone was there and that’s how you kind of learned about all this stuff, and then the further you were away from those centers, the harder it was to be part of those scenes.

Then, I do think there’s this part of what the internet … One thing that it helped do, especially Instagram, is to make that accessible to everyone. So you can go anywhere and have the blue bottle equivalent or the hipster this, or the hipster that. And that wasn’t the case, ever, before.

Sarah: Yeah.

DG: Right.

Sarah: Well there is something that has always made me really passionate about technology which is how it democratizes –

DC: Yes.

Sarah: – things.

DC: Yes.

Sarah: Yeah. So from Birmingham, Alabama to where I am today, what happened?

DC: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Sarah: Well, let’s see. I think that if I trace back all of the sort of ingredients I guess, that led me to Lever … There definitely is a part of it that comes from Alabama. So we founded Lever in 2012.

DC: Yup.

Sarah: It really was because it was this great opportunity to combine what was this amazing thing happening in the world –

DC: Yeah.

Sarah: – Whether or not Lever existed, talent was changing, recruiting was changing, there was something big happening there. So we gotta do something about it.

DC: And you came from Google?

Sarah: I came out of Google, and I think Google was really –

DC: Was this Laszlo Bock era?

Sarah: – Yes. This is definitely Laszlo Bock era. It was front row seats. I actually had the great fortune. My very first job out of college was, of all things, speech writing.

DC: Yeah?

Sarah: For Marissa Mayer.

DC: How?

Sarah: You know, I asked her later and she was just like … She had an answer for me but I still was just like, I don’t know, this is just –

DG: When Keith mentioned that, I was like, ” Was that like a posted job? That you applied for?” Like how did –

Sarah: No. No. The answer Marissa gave me was … She, at the time had been really involved in hiring and talent. I mean really involved. And she made a bet with Johnathan Rosenberg who was another executive at Google at the time. ” I bet I can grow talent faster than you can hire talent.” And I feel like this was just part of Google’s entire ethos about recognizing that the rules had changed, the game had changed. How have to think about hiring. You gotta get way more creative, way more strategic, way more pro-active, and so she founded the Associate Program –

DC: Program. Yeah, yeah.

Sarah: – at Google which is kind of the most –

DC: The APM program.

Sarah: Yeah exactly. It’s kind of the most unremarkable name for what created a whole … It was a remarkable opportunity for me personally, and a lot of great people who have gone on to do great things, have been a part of it.

Sarah: So she knew she wanted one of her associates to be her speechwriter and she had never had anybody do this before. It was the first time anybody was gonna be helping her. So it’s probably, exactly the kind of job that Dave tries to …

DG: Yeah.

DC: Yup.

Sarah: Tries to hire for. So she picked my resume out of the pile because I had studied engineering, check. She speaks largely to engineering audiences, and about engineering. She, at the time, was VP of Search and User Experience.

DC: Yup.

Sarah: So then I also had the design –

DC: Design side. Yup.

Sarah: – side. And then I, of all things, had a minor in comparative literature.

DC: Okay.

Sarah: And she was like, ” And she can write. Get her in.”

DC: Like a recipe.

DG: Just like you drew it up.

Sarah: Yeah. Yeah.

DG: What did you learn from that experience? Not like, as –

Sarah: Oh my god. Front row seats. To how hiring and talent is a C level issue.

DC: Yeah.

Sarah: I worked with her on her internal speaking, her external speaking, and I can’t tell you the number of times that hiring, recruiting, talent, came up. Yeah. I mean, board meeting, we’re talking about here. Right?

DC: Oh yeah. Definitely.

Sarah: And it was just remarkable in the Laszlo era. To get to see how creative Google was getting. How much they were investing in it, and how much that investment paid off. And what, of course, would become a game-changing industry. Revolutionizing talent brand, recruitment process and they cooked up some custom software over there as well.

DC: Yeah, yeah.

Sarah: So I think the Google environment really informed a lot of what I could then see, truly worked.

DC: Yeah.

Sarah: So one of my co-founders also comes from Google, Nate Smith. Also was in the Associate Program –

DG: Oh nice.

Sarah: – Yeah and so I think we had a really clear vision of what would be important in our software. It had to be a CRM. It had to bring in the best of, you could call it sales and marketing technology to talent, and it had to make recruiting a shared, collaborative, experience for everybody in the company.

DC: I like that those are your principles.

Sarah: That was a huge part above Google. Of course we left Google to go do that, so thank you to the Goog.

DC: Yeah.

Sarah: So in 1012 we got started. And then I think the second thing that, of course, was part of my background that led me to Lever, was that design education. So we left Google. And most intrepid start-up founders busily close customers or build software, we didn’t do any of that. We actually spent our first nine months as a company, doing immersive user research.

DC: Get outta here. Yeah?

Sarah: Yeah.

DC: That’s awesome.

Sarah: So we reached out to a bunch of companies. A bunch got back to us. We just set up camp inside of recruiting teams. Like surrounded by busy recruiters. One of the people that we spent a lot of time with on the ground, was Twitter. When they were going from 700 to 1,500 employees, in six months.

DC: Crazy.

Sarah: Yeah.

DC: That type of growth. Yeah.

Sarah: Yeah and I –

DC: And Google did it –

Sarah: – really think that design approach is embedded into us as a company. We haven’t stopped ever since. Then, I actually do think, bringing Alabama back in here, the way Alabama has even surprised me in being a really big influence, in terms of my personal approach to Lever, has actually been in our focus on diversity and inclusion.

DC: Yeah, yeah. I mean you’re a fifty-fifty right? From a gender –

Sarah: Fifty-fifty in the company overall. We’re actually 43% women, in technical and engineering roles.

DC: What? How’s that … What kind of judo? The teacher’s the judo.

Sarah: Yeah, I mean 53% women in leadership and management. 40% women on our board.

DC: That’s amazing.

Sarah: Yeah and we’re 40% non-white. One of the areas we actually have to work on is supporting parents, and lots of different family structures better. So that’s been a new initiative –

DC: Yeah?

Sarah: – in the last few years. So yeah, we have invested a lot in diversity inclusion. I’m really proud of where we are and of course there’s a lot more to do yet. And I do think that, that for me, it’s almost surprised me because now I can look back and see this thread but at the time I wouldn’t have necessarily seen it.

Sarah: But when I was in high school I was one of two non-white people in my school.

DC: Yeah?

DG: That’s crazy.

Sarah: Yeah. My entire school. Birmingham as a city, was actually very segregated.

DC: Yeah?

Sarah: Like re-segregated almost. And it was really obvious that there were the white communities, there were the black communities, and I … My guidance counselor picked me up to go to one of these cross-pollination things at the Civil Rights Institute, which is an amazing institution in Birmingham. All the leaders from the Civil Rights Movement are still working and doing amazing work for their communities today.

Sarah: So I go to this day off of school, when you do all this stuff. And all the programming’s built around, if you’re white go over here, if you’re black go over here, or we’ll do a mix thing of white and black-

DC: Yeah. Ah, they’re here.

Sarah: – and I’m just like, ” Where do I go?”

DC: Go. Yeah, yeah.

Sarah: I actually, from that, spent four years working with the Civil Rights Institute. It was kind of my passion thing. It was what I did in high school. And I kind of never thought that would come full circle.

DC: Oh yeah.

Sarah: I always thought diversity would matter for Lever so from the time we were like sub 10 employees, we had a DNI committee.

DC: Yup.

Sarah: And we invested in it from day one. But I think for a long time –

DG: That’s hard.

Sarah: – that, we would just do it for us. Because 2012, the conversation about diversity was not nearly as at the forefront now. And if you think about back then, even the Ellen Pao –

DC: Yup. Yeah, yeah. Sure.

DG: I remember.

Sarah: – I didn’t see things making a lot of progress.

DC: Yeah?

Sarah: And then, of course, since then it’s just been really invigorating for us as, certainly a company that invests in it for ourselves, but also as a company that has from day one, factored in, ” How will our decisions in our product effect fairness? Equality? Diversity?” –

DC: Especially your product.

Sarah: Yeah. Bias. We’ve thought about it from day one but now we are actually hearing, that you could call it, the market –

DC: Tell you that.

Sarah: – care about that too.

DC: Yeah. It’s wild.

Sarah: Yeah.

DC: It’s such a different time. I always tell the story that, Elias is my co-founder. I had met him like 10 years ago. That had worked … And I’m from New York City right? Not like Birmingham. New York City, but I had worked in technology for 10 years and I had never worked with a brown person. I was the only one. Like I had never even seen one.

Sarah: Yeah.

DC: Like, worked with one on the software engineering side which is where I came form. Until I met him and I was like, ” He’s from Nicaragua.” And that was that. He’s the first one. Yeah.

Sarah: Wow.

DC: It was crazy.

Sarah: Yeah.

DC: 10 years. It was insane. And that was in New York.

Sarah: That is really crazy.

DC: It is radically different now.

Sarah: It is. And I think even at places where, let’s call it the demographics, aren’t there now. But the conversation –

DC: Is there. For sure.

Sarah: – is there. And that’s almost more important, right?

DC: Mmm Hmm.

Sarah: So yeah, I would say that what are the three most critical things to do when you’re about to start hiring for hypergrowth, or to pull that off successfully, I think one, go beyond applicants.

DC: Yes.

Sarah: Right?

DC: That’s the number one thing I rant about. I’ll come back to that.

Sarah: Number one thing. Yup. Two, make sure hiring is collaborative, and a team sport. And then three is, invest in diversity inclusion.

DC: Yes. Yup.

Sarah: It’s always the stuff, kind of you woulda, shoulda, coulda, afterwards. So –

DG: There’s always like, you can’t wait until hyper-growth there to happen. It has to be the DNA-

Sarah: Yes.

DC: Yup.

DG: – the ground work that you lay on day one so you can be set up for that.

DC: To me those three things are … They’re the same, right? With Keith and the recruiting team, I’m always … They’ll bring it up, it’s like, ” How do we get better diversity? How do we get better this?” And then it’s like, ” It’s the decisions you make everyday.” You may say that but you as, I’m just picking on a recruiter, are just taking the easiest stuff that comes in and you’re not saying, ” I’m not gonna take that. I’m gonna do the hard work and I’m gonna spend the time to invest and go do this.” That’s actually how it happens. It doesn’t happen because we create a magic program or something.

Sarah: Yup. Yeah.

DC: There’s no magic program answer –

Sarah: Absolutely. You said you were impressed that over 40% of our hiring team are women –

DC: Yeah. Super impressed.

Sarah: 83% of our engineering team was proactively sourced.

DC: Yes. That’s how.

Sarah: They go hand in hand.

DC: Hand in hand.

Sarah: Yeah.

DC: That’s exactly how. Otherwise it would never happen.

DG: Yeah.

Sarah: Yeah. Or I guess, I should say referrals –

DC: Referrals, yeah.

Sarah: – or a combination of those.

DC: Yeah. But that makes the whole thing, one thing right? Because they’re referrals and getting your team involved. Diversity has to be part of that conversation. And then doing the hard work has to be brought … The whole thing has to work together –

DG: And if you think about it, what do you measure recruiters on? How many jobs you fill, right?

DC: Yup.

DG: And so if you have an inbound applicant, it’s a good conversation you have, then they seem great, why would you not make that hire? Verse if you can go the other way and like you’re doing, 83% is from outbound, you can actually control that.

DG: We had a conversation recently about a new role we are opening up here at Drift. It’s like, wait a second, we have the opportunity to shape this role. To be whatever we want it to be. Let’s start from there and then go build it the right way as opposed to like, ” Okay, here’s who applied so we gotta pick somebody from the pile.” –

Sarah: Pick the best person from the pile. Yeah and actually, you talked about hating job descriptions. We do something at Lever that I actually, this is my one hug thing, actually I get a little grumbles from people because they know it’s like my big thing.

DC: I get plenty of grumbles.

Sarah: Yeah. Which is, we don’t do job descriptions.

DC: Yup.

Sarah: We do impact descriptions.

DC: Oh. Nice.

Sarah: So we completely flip it. You don’t describe a person or like an ideal person, skills, responsibilities, requirements. We actually say, ” Describe the impact that we need.” So you write what, within one, three, six and 12 months, this person … What the impact will be.

DC: Yes. Impact will be. I love that.

Sarah: Yeah. It works on so many levels, I think. One, it actually gives a recruiter a great picture of what kind of person they need and you’re actually tapping into their skills to maybe match unorthodox or diverse profiles or backgrounds, into this … It’s like, ” Oh yeah, I totally know. I can ask about this or I know what to do.”

Sarah: Two, this is totally where, you call it your hiring managers, but the employees know their stuff when it comes to what impact goals, success they need –

DC: Looks like. Yeah. –

Sarah: – you know, they don’t know how to describe a recruiting JD. So you’re getting your employees engaged. Then, I think thirdly, you’re actually getting the best candidates out there, a compelling story. And the best candidates out there read a standard job description, their eyes glaze over and they move on. So you’re almost recusing yourself from the top five percentile that you actually want to hire.

DC: Yeah.

Sarah: So when you can paint the picture like, ” Here’s the progression you’re gonna make over your first year.” And when they look at that 12 month bucket, here’s what it alludes to beyond that.

DC: Yes.

Sarah: That’s again, how you speak to this new talent strategy so check out Lever’s jobs. We write them all as –

DC: Yeah. Alright, everyone check out Lever’s jobs.

Sarah: – what impact you’ll have in one, three, six, 12 months.

DC: I love that. Because that was my other problem with the job description. Was like, the person that you really want, is not gonna read this job description. Like, knows Excel, proficient with Excel, and knows like what, what? No one’s gonna read that. And the break out person you want is never gonna sit and read that thing. And they’re probably not gonna be inbound either, right? So you have to go to them with a compelling story, right? You’re gonna go outbound and you’re gonna go find them and you’re gonna have to find them with a compelling story, again.

DG: It also sets that person up for success on day one. Then you come in and it’s like, ” Okay now what do I …?” You already know what you have to do. Here’s the road map.

DC: Yeah, yeah. Yup. Go.

Sarah: It’s like 90% of onboarding, check, done.

DG: Alright, DC send us, wrap us up. Wrap us up.

DC: Sarah, where can we find you online?

Sarah: Oh my gosh. That’s a great question. I’m very easy to find on LinkedIn. I am super easy to find on Twitter.

DC: Okay.

Sarah: So I’m, @S-R-H-N-H-M. Certainly if there’s any talent leaders out there who wanna talk shop about how to make change in this industry. I nerd out about this stuff all day.

DC: That’s awesome.

Sarah: And as we said at the beginning of the podcast, meeting people, organizations, teams that –

DC: You love it.

Sarah: Yeah. I love it.

DC: That’s awesome.

DG: Love it.

DC: So check out Sarah online and leave a six star review not five star.

DG: We only get six star ratings. Yes.

DC: We only get six star reviews.

Sarah: Only six stars. I love it.

DC: Then we break the –

DG: Do you know anybody at Apple that could help us with the –

Sarah: Showing your six stars that you’ve earned. Yeah.

DC: People do a five star. And then in the comments they leave a sixth star. Right. So six star rating only for Sarah. Give her some love. Follow her on Twitter. Check out Lever. Again, Keith has a huge crush on Lever. If you know Keith, you know he loves Lever.

DG: He does.

DC: Alright. Take care everyone.

DG: Thanks Sarah.

DC: Alright.

Sarah: Thanks.

DC: See ya.